WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, released the following statement in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York’s announcement that he will push for legalizing recreational marijuana, a decision that would result in more than $1.7 Billion in annual sales in the state:
“As states have legalized marijuana, those with criminal records for low-level marijuana convictions have watched while others have become wealthy from the business of selling marijuana. It is unconscionable that the wealthy and the resourceful benefit from a booming marijuana market, while low-level marijuana convictions prevent disproportionate numbers of African Americans and Latinos from obtaining housing, credit, an education, or a job.
“Any effort by Governor Cuomo to legalize recreational marijuana must include a plan to expunge low-level marijuana convictions in order to give people the second chance they deserve. Such reform must also seek to address the racial disparities that infect the growing cannabis industry, which is overwhelmingly white, as the cost of licenses operate to exclude vast numbers of poor people and people of color. We may not be able to erase all of the damage that the war on drugs has unleashed on marginalized communities but it is critical that we provide all individuals with low-level marijuana convictions the chance to start anew.”
Of the 8.2 million individuals arrested for marijuana between 2001 and 2010 in the United States, 88% of those individuals were arrested for possession. This has disproportionately affected black Americans, who are three times more likely than white Americans to be arrested for marijuana.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 55th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org